Poland hopes for a good start of Euro 2020 campaign against Slovakia
Poland will be hoping to improve on their poor record in opening matches at major tournaments when they take on minnows Slovakia in St Petersburg on Monday (June 14), with a win crucial for both sides ahead of their matches against group favourites Spain.
Slovakia defender Milan Skriniar will be tasked with stopping Poland's Robert Lewandowski, as the record-breaking Bayern Munich striker sets out to prove his quality at a major tournament.
Both played a key role in their clubs' success during the 2020/21 season, as Skriniar's Inter Milan won Italy's Serie A with the least goals conceded and Lewandowski's Bayern clinched the Bundesliga title with the most scored.
As he tries to keep Lewandowski quiet, Skriniar will need to keep a clear head and count on his team mates to put pressure on Poland's midfield before they can deliver the ball to the European Golden Boot winner of 2021.
The midfield will be dotted with well-established names on both sides, where creative midfielders Piotr Zieliński and Marek Hamsik are also no strangers to each other.
Victory in the opener will ease the pressure on the winners ahead of their match against group favourites Spain, and potentially take them halfway to a place in the knockout stages.
So far, Poland have failed five out of six times to win their opener at a major tournament in the 21st century, despite being tipped to win in most of those matches.
Meanwhile, Slovakia are playing in only their third major tournament but have reached the knockouts in both their previous appearances on a major stage at the 2010 World Cup and at Euro 2016.
They know they are likely to have their hands full even with Poland deprived of two of their strikers - with Arkadiusz Milik and Krzysztof Piątek out injured - and plan a group effort to stop Lewandowski, who broke a 49-year-old Bundesliga goal-scoring record this season.
Slovakia's veteran squad, with the 30-year-old Robert Mak and Juraj Kucka, 34, joining Hamsik in midfield, will attempt to navigate a tough group which also includes Sweden and Spain.
Centre back Milan Skriniar, fresh from winning the Serie A title with Inter Milan, will be tasked with keeping Lewandowski, this season's European Golden Boot winner, in check.
Slovakia head coach Stefan Tarkovic, an assistant during Euro 2016, said he hoped his side could build on their strong defensive displays in their two warmup fixtures, a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria and a goalless stalemate against Austria.
Tarkovic said the team would be ready for an aggressive Poland side, who are 21st in the FIFA rankings, 15 places above Slovakia.
Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Reuters
Źródło zdjęcia głównego: TVN24